The internet’s not known for embracing change. If a logo font switches from Verdana to Helvetica, sides are taken, wars break out and people die. It’s that serious.
Change a thing on a web page from red to blue and you may as well sign your own death warrant, with only the older people who remember when it all used to be yellow-on-grey left to take your side.
Poor old Twitter, which has been searching for its identity and changing its app and web layouts willy-nilly for years, is one of the most hated and most frequent changers out there. Remember Linegate, when people blew their lids off and dramatically punched walls because some little blue lines occasionally appeared on the web interface?
That’s nothing. This week, it was discovered that Twitter is testing yet another massive visual redesign, with some users noticing they’d been unwitting enrolled into a test programme that transforms Twitter into a column-heavy, image-led clone of Facebook with a touch of Instagram and Pinterest thrown in too.
If they push this absolutely enormous change out to everyone, the furious screams of the internet-bound population will be picked up by the sensitive instrumentation aboard the Mars rovers.
Over on the Daily Mail, the home of righteous fury about things that don’t matter in the slightest, reader Frank Sidebottom contributed quite possibly the most ironic comment in Daily Mail history, asking: "Wot kind of idiots sit around all day posting comments on these sites?! I will NEVER have a twitter / facebook!"
There’s a Frank Sidebottom film coming out. We think this man might be a viral marketing drone. Surely that’s the only explanation for such a statement?
A more sensible comment on the homogenisation of the internet was provided by reader Spinny, who plumbed her depth of legal expertise to say it’s all OK, postulating that: "If Facebook can nick the hash tagging and also the trending like Twitter, then Twitter can nick ideas from Facebook."
In your Facebook
Over on Mashable, which broke the story via the too-good-to-be-a-coincidence fact that one of its writers got bumped onto Twitter’s beta test layout, reader Lawson Hembree asked: "Why copy a social network that very few people use (G+) and another one that is losing younger users (Facebook)? If Twitter wants to grow, they need to stick to their core design and emphasis on simplicity."
Most people seem to think the changes are advertising driven, with Twitter’s recent share price collapse perhaps forcing its hand in rolling out a more advert-friendly page layout regardless of the fury that’ll be @-replied in its direction from long-time users.
A few comments down, Eric Castle responded to the hackneyed "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" response that was doing the rounds with a cutting attack on Facebook’s ever-changing design, saying of Twitter’s reworking: "Too bad they’re imitating a network that has a hard time sticking to a solid layout design for more than a year at a time."
Why pamper life’s complexities?
On The Verge, once you scrolled past the initial wave of vomiting/abuse comments, the clearest explanation of general user feeling was provided by Culby, who distilled everyone’s unfocused rage into the concise: "Part of what makes Twitter awesome is it’s simplicity. This is decidedly not simple."
Lovely comment, a misused apostrophe and only 71 characters. You’ll go a long way on the internet, Culby.
In response, commenter Subtlearray provided an equally thoughtful and on-the-money summary of what the common man thinks Twitter should do instead of trying to be Facebook, suggesting the Twitter people should: "Merge those stupid Discover and Activity timelines, hide the ugly image links (ex. pic.twitter.com/xxxxx) behind an icon or button, give users a reply or reply all option so every reply isn’t sent to the original poster by default, and make the Android app suck less."
Blew it a bit with the vague "suck less" finale, but an otherwise sound list there.
Subtle subtext: he is better than the other losers
Minor layout changes are such big news that the possible Twitter redesign even made it to CNN, where the most predictable comment of the week appeared from a user calling himself FrankZappa. Frank claimed, probably lying quite a bit, that: "Social media is a complete waste of time, I just call my friends on the phone or go knock on their door… I know, what a CRAZY idea…"
What do you do when they’re out, Frank? Wait for them on their step? Track them via GPS and wave at them through the restaurant window from the street?